The 80s had some of the best Halloween songs in history. Sure - maybe the decade didn't have revered hits like "The Monster Mash" or "Werewolves of London," or even "Psycho Killer." Heck, "The Addams Family Theme Song" doesn't even count!
But hear us out: because of the eclectic-ness of the 80s, tons of songs were being made about spooky creatures, haunted settings, and other things that go bump in the night. Whether it was because of a renaissance of horror movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining, and Poltergeist or because of budding rocker, goth, and punk subcultures, people had a bigger tolerance - nay, a craving - for the macabre. Thus, a treasure trove of creepy songs perfect for spooky season emerged in the decade.
Below are some of Live365's favorite 80s Halloween hits we recommend you play at your next party...or if you're just looking to feel nostalgic!
"Thriller" - Michael Jackson
We can't start an 80s Halloween song list without giving a nod to Michael Jackson, whose 1984 hit "Thriller" is one of only two songs to enter the Billboard Hot 100 every year because of a holiday season (the other song being "All I Want For Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey). With arguably the most significant music video and dance moves in pop culture, it's a groovy, spooky track with a title that jumps right off the page. Fun fact: the song was originally titled "Starlight" before composer Rod Temperton found a better name.
"Somebody's Watching Me" - Rockwell (Feat. Jermaine Jackson & Michael Jackson)
Ever been afraid to wash your hair in the shower because you're scared someone's out to kill you like in Psycho? Rockwell's classic "Somebody's Watching Me" echoes the paranoia of living all alone and dealing with doubts of the mind.
If you don't know who Rockwell - AKA Kennedy Gordy - is, he's actually the son of legendary Motown CEO Berry Gordy. After playing this song for his father (who was not impressed), he got Michael Jackson's support and secretly submitted a demo to Motown under the stage name Rockwell. Papa Gordy was surprised and in awe, and "Somebody's Watching Me" peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Like the previous song, this track was released in 1984 and features Michael Jackson on the chorus.
"The Killing Moon" - Echo & The Bunnymen
Yet another tune from 1984, this timeless song hit #9 on the U.K. charts at the time of its release. Romantic and haunting at the same time, it was released as part of Echo & The Bunnymen's album Ocean Rain and was featured in the 2001 film Donnie Darko.
"Hungry Like the Wolf" - Duran Duran
This big bad Duran Duran song is perfect for any werewolf lovers out there. Energetic, playful, and totally 80s, it was Duran Duran's breakout hit in the United States and Canada after they had stable success in the U.K. A Roland’s 808 and Jupiter 8 keyboard account for the song's distinctive groove. This song will get you dancing...and may make you lick your fangs in hunger.
"Zombie Zoo" - Tom Petty
We recently did a Top 10 Tom Petty Songs list, and this is a great track we didn't get to squeeze in! Petty wrote this song after visiting a nightclub in downtown Los Angeles. While it's a chipper tune about partying, the lyrics about impulsive behavior and the "living dead" make this a wonderful zombified Halloween song.
"Halloween" - Siouxsie and The Banshees
If you're going to play Halloween songs from the 80s, you need to squeeze in some tracks from the blossoming punk scene. This Siouxsie and The Banshees classic is perfectly titled, produced, and mixed for the Halloween season. Trick or Treat!
"Dead Man's Party" - Oingo Boingo
Remember Danny Elfman's Oingo Boingo days? We surely do, and this fun track is hailed as one of the biggest hits in the band's discography. Its music video was also an MTV staple. The "all dressed up with nowhere to go" lyrics definitely hit too close to home after enduring the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Teenage Frankenstein" - Alice Cooper
For the hardcore rock lovers out there, "Teenage Frankenstein" is a monsterous track great for groaning and headbanging. It was the first song on Cooper's 1986 album Constrictor, and was notably used in Friday the 13th Part 6.
"A Nightmare On My Street" - DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
A song by the Fresh Prince that isn't about Bel-Air! Over a horror-type beat made by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith lays down some bars about his encounter with Freddy Krueger and goes into detail to connect it with the iconic Nightmare on Elm Street movie series. Like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, Smith shows off his abilities as a skilled storyteller in this track.
"Ghostbusters" - Ray Parker Jr.
The 1980s movie Ghostbusters wouldn't have been as big of a hit if it weren't for Ray Parker Jr.'s iconic theme song to back it up. “Ghostbusters” went straight to #1 in the U.S. in the summer of 1984, and also topped charts in Belgium, Canada, France, and other countries. It was all over the radio, much to the chagrin of some listeners. Love it or hate it, this dance track about not being afraid of no ghosts is a Halloween party staple.
"Maneater" - Hall & Oates
While this funky tune is actually about sleazy people living in New York during the 80s, it fits in with Halloween playlists because of the deadly "man-eating" woman Hall & Oates describe. Is she a vampire? A succubus? Who knows. In any case, this song off H20 certainly doesn't lose its charm.
"Goodbye Horses" - Q Lazzarus
"Goodbye Horses" has no connection to Halloween or creepy things in any way. In fact, this song actually discusses Hindu philosophy and transcendence. However, due to the track's famous use in Silence of the Lambs, unsettling keyboard riff, and the singer's mysterious disappearance from the public eye (last anyone's heard, she worked as a Staten Island bus driver in 2018), it's been associated with spooky season since the late 80s.
"Bark at the Moon" - Ozzy Osbourne
The title track to Ozzy’s third studio album, this is the first Osbourne track the world got with Jake E. Lee on guitar, following the untimely death of Randy Rhoads. The lyrics are about a monsterous creature who once terrorized a town, was slain, and later mysteriously resurrected to once again wreak havoc upon the village people. "Bark at the Moon" is a howling good time, and another suitable song for lupine lovers.
"Spellbound" - Siouxsie and The Banshees
Siouxsie and The Banshees is back with another enchanting song on our list. A story about a hypnotic love spell, the lyrics of "Spellbound" discuss creepy dolls, laughter through the walls, and even throwing elders down the stairs. (Yikes!) The heavy drum beat and Siouxsie's witchy, powerhouse vocals are great for your next coven gathering in the woods.
"Weird Science" - Oingo Boingo
Get ready to work it like Dr. Frankenstein with this entertaining song about undead creations. We couldn't just include one Oingo Boingo song on the list!
Used for the movie of the same name, "Weird Science" is actually something of a shame for Oingo Boingo due to the fact an incomplete demo of this song was used for the film. The band wanted to fine-tune it, but their label went behind their back and handed over the unfinished version. Fortunately, Oingo Boingo was able to include a better cut of the track on their 1985 album Dead Man's Party.
"Twilight Zone" - Golden Earring
No, not the legendary Twilight Zone TV show. Songwriter George Kooymans of Golden Earring is actually referencing a line from the then-obscure novel The Bourne Identity. In the book, Bourne points out that Conklin quit drinking, and Conklin replies: "If I could have managed better in that twilight zone, I might not have. There’s something to be said for the grape on many occasions."
Even though this song has nothing to do with the horror TV show from the 1950s, it's played every Halloween due to the association - as well as chilling lyrics about sirens in the speaker's head, a "madhouse" setting, and the feeling of being cloned. Pretty other-worldy, if you ask us.
"I Want Candy" - Bow Wow Wow
Perhaps the least creepy bop on our list, this super sweet 1982 hit is the official theme song of trick-or-treating kids everywhere! Originally written by The Strangeloves in 1965, Bow Wow Wow made their cover of "I Want Candy" a beachy romp perfect for chowing down to. Cool, sunny, and oh-so tasty, you'll get a sugar rush listening to this jam!
That's it for our picks. Feel free to check out our other Halloween song lists...if you dare! Until then, we hope your October 31 is macabre, merry, and full of good music!
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Article Image: A white cassette tape with black film streaming out over an orange background. (Daniel Schludi via Unsplash.)